I was out watering some things in the garden this evening & looking north I could see a big thunderhead, though the sky overhead was clear, just a little hazy. Coming indoors just now, I checked the weather radar on the computer & could see the cell of storms I had been watching moving along the Canadian border. Gardeners, even poor ones, are interested in the weather. As I was watering, I was thinking about parataxis again. My neck is killing me because I pushed the mower around the lower part of the yard for an hour this afternoon. I have a bad neck. I read Beckett last winter, but he doesn't seem like a summer writer. I'm reading Powers now. In a comment to my earlier post about parataxis, Jonathan Mayhew wrote, "People who are interested in this kind of writing like the play between the absence of hypotaxis and the connections they are able to make." That sounds just a little like some sort of Calvinist doctrine of election to me, though I don't think that was Jonathan's intent. Either you get it or you don't get it, you're in or you're out, going to heaven or not & there's nothing you can do about it. When arguments about poetry resort to taste, there is always an implied value judgment, I think. Carole is away this evening visiting her friend Amy & the dogs are driving me a little bit crazy. I'm mostly reacting as a reader here & my intend is not to dismiss the paratactic wing of American poetry. I do want some justification, though, that goes beyond taste. Jonathan cites Ron Silliman's work in general, writing: "Each sentence of a Silliman poem, for example, is completely syntactical. The parataxis occurs at the discursive level, in the space between the sentences. In other words, they donâ€™t add up to a paragraph of discourse." That's generally, but not strictly, true & since I would like to get down to cases, here are two consecutive sentences from Silliman's Tjanting: "Inversions face affect. Idea vary the do eye." The first may ask the reader to consider when semantic meaning has a grammatical consequence, the second sends one spinning outside the frames of English. Moving on, it would be interesting to count what percentage of Silliman's sentences in Tjanting are fragments. The fragment has a long & glorious career in English & is, yes, "perfectly grammatical," but it is a grammar with consequences, tending to subvert the relations between mind & nature. Be that as it may. I take that subversion to be the central project of the "turn toward language" in recent American poetry. But if I pick up Silliman's text & begin reading, what difference does it make if I skip ahead or skip back? Tjanting appears to me to be a kind of transcription of consciousness. What I want to know as a reader is why I should give this particular transcription my attention? I have a different experience if I pick up Lyn Hejinian's My Life, which contains plenty of parataxis, but within a larger hypotactic structure. Is that right? The youngest terrier, just out of puppyhood, is sitting at my feet gnawing a Nylabone for all she's worth. As a writer, now, what I'm looking for is a right relation between ground & figure. When we turn toward language, do we abandon the figure & at what cost? Jonathan knows a lot more about jazz than I do, but doesn't improvisation require a theme, a phrase, a common point of contact with a larger context? Blues lyrics, which I know something about, are often paratactic, veering from one subject to another with only a vague thematic ground; still, the figures are clear in themselves. And a blues song only demands a few minutes of my time. Formally, it plays against a known structure. When William Carlos Williams published "The Red Wheelbarrow" (& his other objectivist poems), some critics mocked the poem by printing it as a sentence. Today, that seems sophomoric, but as with many things sophomoric, there is a misguided grain of insight. Why is this sentence special, we want to know. I think I could answer that question for "The Red Wheelbarrow." Actually, I have answered it (with varying degrees of success) over a long career of teaching poetry. Perhaps there is what we might call the "red wheelbarrow problem" in poetics.